How South Dakota Stacks Up to Other States on Teacher Privacy


Parents and advocates in South Dakota share their concerns. State laws on open files are not transparent enough to help the public understand how and whether districts keep students safe at school.

But openness varies from state to state when it comes to how and when teachers are disciplined, and whether districts are transparent about their efforts to keep children safe. And what a district may or may not say about teacher discipline is often a gray area based on state law.

In South Dakota, personnel information other than salary and routine directory information is not public. And cases are also not prepared or received by law enforcement agencies and other government agencies responsible for investigating alleged crimes against people.

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David Bordewyk, executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, said teacher privacy laws are “another example of weakness in our public records.”

“When you have a cone of silence, you are left to rumors and nothing,” he added.

David Bordewyk

How do the states compare to South Dakota?

Other states have equally strict laws. In Nebraska, these records can be withheld. In Wyoming, records are generally confidential unless they are also generated for other purposes, such as an investigation of potential criminal conduct.

Districts in Vermont are bound by personal information privacy laws, and many have a policy of not commenting on personnel matters.

But there are exceptions elsewhere in the country, and it was only recently that South Dakota began to move toward the exception by publishing records of disciplinary actions taken against teacher certificates.

Personnel records and teacher records are available in Ohio, but some districts maintain separate records in investigative or disciplinary records. And some district teachers’ unions also have rules that they must be notified if their case is requested.

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Even in the Midwest, other states have a presumption of opening for teacher records. In North Dakota, these registrations are generally open.

In Montana, the public has a clear and unambiguous right to be informed of internal investigations of public employees, and they must be fully disclosed to the public while the investigation is ongoing, as well as upon its conclusion.

In Minnesota, the existence and status of any complaint or charge against an employee is public, whether or not the complaint or charge results in disciplinary action.

In Iowa, whether a person has been terminated as a result of final disciplinary action after all applicable contractual, legal and statutory remedies have been exhausted is generally a public record.

And disclosure of the mere fact that a public employer is investigating a public employee, or that the employee is on administrative leave, does not violate an employee’s right to privacy in Washington state.

Public surveillance eliminates the possibility of abuse

Meanwhile, in 2019, Texas established a Do Not Hire List, which shows the names of teachers and administrators who have proven incidents of sexual misconduct with students, whether they have been fired, or whether they have been fired. have resigned.

There, state laws also require principals to report allegations of teacher sexual misconduct to the superintendent, who is then responsible for immediately forwarding that information to the state education department, where the board State for certification of educators manages their license.

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Mike Hiestand, senior legal advisor for the Student Press Law Center, said great trust is placed in public schools and public school employees. Open case laws are one way to ensure that trust is well placed.

“It is important that there is reasonable public oversight to ensure that teachers and administrators of public schools, like all government employees, are who they claim to be, do not abuse authority given to them and are not held responsible if they do, “Hiestand mentioned.

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